Painting immortalises historic action

Taking pride of place in 4 Squadron headquarters at RAAF Base Williamtown is a new painting commemorating an important event in the history of air warfare and the RAAF.

CAPTIONGarry Cooper and Commanding Officer 4 Squadron Wing Commander Steven Duffy unveil a painting commissioned by aviation artist Ivan Berryman at 4 Squadron, RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW. Story by Flying Officer Jamie Wallace. Photos: Leading Aircraftman Kurt Lewis.

On February 3, 1943, during the Battle of Wau in New Guinea, a 4 Squadron CAC Wirraway aircraft used tracer fire to direct two 30 Squadron Beaufighter aircraft – as well as ground mortar fire – on to Japanese positions in close proximity to friendly forces.

This was the first recorded example of Forward Air Control (Airborne) (FAC[A]) in military history.

To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the event, a painting was commissioned from renowned UK-based artist Ivan Berryman.

The painting was unveiled at 4 Squadron headquarters during a ceremony on November 2, attended by squadron members as well as VIP guest Garry Cooper.

During the ceremony, Mr Cooper, a former Air Force pilot with an illustrious military and commercial career, shared his experiences as an FAC(A) pilot flying Cessna O-1 Bird Dog aircraft during the Vietnam War.

CAPTIONRetired Fighter Pilot Garry Cooper discusses his past military experience in Forward Air Control to current RAAF members of 4 Squadron, RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW.

Executive Officer 4 Squadron, Squadron Leader Mike Keaney, said it was an honour to have Mr Cooper present for the unveiling of the painting.

“Mr Cooper has a rich aviation background, and hearing a first-hand account of his experience as an FAC(A) pilot in a combat environment was invaluable to members of the squadron and very appropriate for the occasion,” he said.

Squadron Leader Keaney said a significant amount of research was conducted to ensure the painting was as historically correct as possible.

“Accurate details were gathered on tail numbers, markings, paint schemes, tropical jungle settings and even clouds,” he said.

“Current airborne FAC(A) practitioner input also went into the positioning of the aircraft for authentic control considerations.”

Commanding Officer 4 Squadron Wing Commander Steven Duffy said the painting portrayed the importance of the action to the battle as well as the broader conflict.

“The painting depicts the first recorded action from the air that was coordinated with friendly troops in close contact with the enemy,” Wing Commander Duffy said.

“During the Second World War, 4 Squadron Wirraway aircraft were instrumental in cooperating with the Army in an observation role during the New Guinea campaign in the Pacific theatre.”

The squadron, known as ‘Home of the controller’, maintains the FAC(A) capabilities for the ADF, both in training and, if required, combat environments.

CAPTION: The painting commissioned by aviation artist Ivan Berryman depicting a No. 4 Squadron Wirraway and No. 30 Squadron Beaufighter, RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW.


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